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10 Things you Absolutely Must Do When in Florence

If you’re planning a trip to come to Europe, creating a travel schedule can be quite a daunting task. Especially in Italy, a country filled with museums, monuments, cathedrals, and breathtaking architecture at every street corner. Thankfully for me, my trip to Italy was carefully planned out day by day, including all the minuscule important interlacing details. My sweet Italian family meticulously created a secret itinerary for each day I’ll be staying in Italy. What makes it all so thrilling is that I never know what I’ll be doing the next day, and each day is like a special surprise! This feeling of curiosity causes my anticipation to grow more and more as we drive to unknown destinations to experience new things, try new foods, or visit new cities. Just a few nights ago I was told to, “pack a backpack with clothes for a few days, make sure to bring sneakers, and be ready to leave at 7 am tomorrow”. Immediately, multitudes of questions and thoughts filled my head as I wondered, “where could we possibly be going?, why sneakers? …maybe lots of walking?, is it far away? is it another city?” Little did I know, the next morning I’d be boarding a train with Diego with our pre-purchased (they’re so sneaky) tickets to FLORENCE!!VSCO Cam-1-5VSCO Cam-2-2 As I sat in the comfy train seat and stared out the window as we passed what seemed like never-ending fields and farmlands, the train stopped and we got off in a city about 3 hours away from Milan (I was still unsure as to where we were). After about 5 minutes of walking around the train station, looking for any possible sign to tell me where I was, Diego finally told me that we were in Florence! I couldn’t believe it!! In just a few short hours by train, we’d arrived in an Italian city I’d only seen in my dreams…and a place I’ve always longed to visit. I hope our itinerary, and my top favorite things to do, eat, and see, inspire you to come spend a few days in the gorgeous city of Florence! Don’t worry if you can’t cram it all into just a few days, because whether you know it or not, you’ll be back…I already want to go back!

Firenze Card

One of my number one tips, buy the Firenze card! It gets you admission into every museum, cathedral, and church, for 72 hours. The most important detail of the Firenze card, is that it works like a “fast-pass”, to bypass waiting for hours under the blistering sun, among thousands of other sweaty tourists. This card quickly became my best friend as it saved us from uncountable long lines at many museums including a line for the Duomo that wrapped back-and-forth around the entire cathedral. I felt as if my Firenze card was magically transformed into a princess crown as we were ushered directly to the front of countless lines, where it seemed like people had been waiting for hours.I can’t imagine how much extra time we would have needed in Florence to see and do everything we were able to without using the Firenze card.

1. Duomo-Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Ok, this one might seem a bit obvious, considering it is hands-down, the iconic architectural symbol for Florence. This massive domed cathedral was designed by Brunelleschi over 600 years ago. I found this cathedral to be completely mesmerizing, with all it’s intricacy and how beautifully it’s built. I took pictures of it from the outside, inside, from the top of the dome, from other towers overlooking the cathedral, during the day, and even more pictures at night. Don’t worry, I’m only adding a couple photos here, as the pictures don’t even do it justice. I’d recommend climbing to the top dome of the Duomo, if your schedule permits, for a stunning view of all of Florence. 463 steps later, we reached the top of the dome and sat on the steps overlooking the impressive view.VSCO Cam-1-6 VSCO Cam-2-3VSCO Cam-1-9VSCO Cam-2-6VSCO Cam-3-2

2. Palazzo Vecchio 

This grandiose palace was once home to the Medici family, and currently functions as Florence’s town hall and a precious museum. Time travel becomes possible as you step foot into Palazzo Vecchio, and journey back into history 3 eras. The original construction of this palace began in 1299, and is attributed to the architect, Arnolfo di Cambio. Throughout history this palace has undergone many changes and been referred to in several ways including: Palazzo dei Priori, Palazzo della Signoria, and Palazzo Vecchio. 23 years after it’s original construction, the building was deemed complete as a large bell was hoisted into it’s impressive bell tower. The later architectural adjustments in the 16th century can be seen in the rear of the palace, while the massive design of the front of the palace and tower remain the same. A monumental set of stairs take you up into the palace’s most well-known room, the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred). The interior of this Palace has intricately decorated rooms, baroque ceilings, rich wall tapestries, carved doors, and striking artwork by da Vinci and Michelangelo. No visit to Palazzo Vecchio is complete without the trek up it’s towering bell tower. Your legs might be tired after the 414 steps to the top, but you’ll thank me after seeing the stunning view!VSCO Cam-1-7 VSCO Cam-2-4VSCO Cam-4-1

3. Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio, (“old bridge” in Italian), is one of the city’s most distinguished landmarks, and unquestionably the most famous bridge in Florence. The bridge was originally built for the Medici family as a safe passageway for traveling between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti. Beneath this secret passageway, jewelers and goldsmiths have their shops situated beautifully along this ancient cobblestone bridge. I’m almost positive I took like 200 pictures solely of the Ponte Vecchio, with all it’s little shops, flowered balconies, and delicate jewels. Later in the day we strolled along Ponte Vecchio to admire it’s beauty by night…and for more pictures of course!VSCO Cam-1-8 VSCO Cam-2-5


The moment you first take a bite of authentic Italian pizza is literally life-changing, I’m not even exaggerating. The taste is completely different from any “Italian” pizza we have in the US. Since it’d be incredibly difficult to explain the way the rich flavors of all the delectable ingredients combine with the savory taste of pure Italian tomato sauce, you’ll just have to come here to try it yourself. The pizzeria we ate at is called Pizzeria O’Vesuvio Firenze, famous for it’s authentic Naples-style pizza and ingredients. http://www.ovesuviofirenze.com/en/VSCO Cam-1-10

5. Spaghetti 

 It was a bit overwhelming for my taste buds to experience so much Italian deliciousness crammed into the same day. For dinner we ate spaghetti at an elegant Italian restaurant.  Our table was on the rear terrace, surrounded by twinkling lights, hanging lanterns, tiled walls, and candle lit tables. My spaghetti was unlike anything I’d ever eaten before, and almost immediately became one of my favorite foods I’ve eaten since coming to Europe. So many exquisite flavors all in one bite…I quickly dove my fork back into my bowl for another bite of creamy spaghetti. Just before it reached my mouth, I was startled to hear, “stop!” Little did I know, Italians have an extremely specific way spaghetti should be eaten, and any other way is strictly unlawful. Spoons and knives should never even be mentioned while devouring your spaghetti. Which fork you use is also exceedingly important matter for Italians. To avoid looking like a foreigner, it’d be a good idea to learn how to eat pasta like a true Italian.

According to the New York Time’s article titled, THE SPOON QUESTION, OR HOW TO EAT PASTA LIKE AN EXPERT, “Spoons are for children, amateurs and people with bad table manners in general.” They even provide a suggested technique that must be used in order to prevent looking like an amateur: “Put the fork into a few strands of spaghetti; let the tines of the fork rest against the curve of the bowl or the curved indentation of the plate, while twirling the fork around and giving it brief quick lifts to prevent too much pasta from accumulating. When one discrete mass of pasta can be lifted, hoist away.” Once you’ve mastered the technique of eating pasta like the locals, you can avoid looking like an American barbarian on your future travels to Italy. After Diego gave me a lesson on how to eat my spaghetti like an Italian would, I began to slowly and carefully eat my delicious spaghetti, one fork twirl at a time. VSCO Cam-2-7VSCO Cam-4-2


We couldn’t leave this special dinner without having dessert! We ordered 2 tiramisu’s, and they came in the cutest little glass jar. This little Italian combination of cocoa and expresso was the perfect treat to end our beautiful first day spent in Florence.

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6. Uffizi Gallery

A visit to this museum is an absolute must for everyone, at least once in your life as you’ll have the opportunity to admire some of the most famous European paintings in the world. The permanent collection in the museum consists of works by famous artists including Giotto, Botticelli, da Vinci, and Michelangelo. The Uffizi is a massive and exhausting museum with thousands of paintings and sculptures, I’d recommend coming prepared with a plan of attack (a list of which paintings and sculptures are most important to visit). Museums in Italy seem to have the ability to cause a severe case of “museum-coma”, as you attempt to digest some of the most stunning and overwhelming pieces of artwork in the world. We decided to take a few pit stops on the benches located in the main Uffizi halls, as we sat to clear our heads and people-watch all the crazy tourists. One of the most popular and breathtaking paintings in the Uffizi is Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. His painting depicts Venus, the goddess of love, riding on a shell that has just been blown to shore by a strong gust of wind.VSCO Cam-3-4VSCO Cam-1-12VSCO Cam-4-3VSCO Cam-2-8

7. Galleria dell’Accademia: David

Michelangelo’s 500 year old sculpture of David is definitely something that you HAVE TO see when in Florence. David is unquestionably the most handsome and loved man in all of Florence. The enormous size of Michelangelo’s sculpture is something that shocked me, as I had always imagined David being more “life-size”. However, David stands 17 feet tall, and is approximately 3 times the size of an average person. The cliche, “one man’s trash another man’s treasure proves true with the story behind Michelangelo’s creation. The 6 ton block of marble that was used for his masterpiece, had previously been discarded by other sculptors who decided “it was too much of a pain to work with”. Standing before the massive sculpture is truly an unforgettable experience and something that needs to be added to every Florence itinerary.VSCO Cam-1-13 VSCO Cam-2-9

8. Giardino de Boboli

One step away from the loud, busy streets of Florence, you enter the peaceful isolated paradise of Palazzo Pitti. The Boboli Gardens (located behind the palace) have been referred to as the city’s “green lungs”, and embrace a completely different aspect of Florence’s culture. Its colossal oak trees, fountains, and sculptures offer a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.VSCO Cam-2-10VSCO Cam-3-5

9. Have a walk through Florence by night

As beautiful as all the sculptures and monuments are by day, in my opinion, they’re far more impressive when lit up against the black night sky. While seeing the Duomo by day is a wonderful experience, visiting it by night is absolutely astonishing. With no lines, no sweaty tourists, you’ll get to experience a beautifully quiet view of some of the world’s masterpieces.VSCO Cam-1-15 VSCO Cam-2-11 VSCO Cam-3-6

10. Gelato

It’d be a crime to post a day spent wandering the streets of Florence without a stop for gelato, especially after all those towers we climbed. You can find a gelateria on almost every street corner throughout Florence, but it’s important not to let the towering colorful heaps of icy gelato fool you. There is such a thing as “bad gelato”, I know, crazy right?? Some gelaterias add extra coloring and the gelato doesn’t have the same creamy taste like it should. A few of Florence’s most popular gelaterias are Grom and Vivoli, which are both ridiculously busy at all hours of the day. Why are people lined out the door and down the sidewalk when theres another gelateria next door with zero line?? I’d say it’s worth it to wait in the line and see what you’re missing out on 😉5

So far my time in Italy has been amazing!! Everyday is packed full of new adventures, new experiences, new foods, and special memories that I’ll cherish forever. Thanks for staying updated on my travels and keep your eyes out for my next post about another gorgeous Italian city!

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An Italian’s Secret Ingredient is Always Cheese

It’s officially been a week since I’ve been in Italy, and to sum it up in just a few words…my taste buds basically died and went to Heaven this week. Seriously though, “Italian” food in other countries does not even come close to comparing to the deliciousness of every single meal I’ve had here in Italy.

After arriving in Italy, one of the first things I ate was real, authentic, creamy, delicious Italian gelato. It quickly became one of my absolute favorite things I’ve eaten EVERR! It is an edible piece of Italian culture, and a popular refreshing treat for Italy’s hot summer days. Gelato is basically Italian “ice-cream”, but it is made differently from ice-cream in America. Gelato is made with 50% less air, resulting in a creamier and softer texture than ice-cream. The restaurants specializing in serving gelato are referred to as “gelaterias”, and can be found on basically every street corner throughout Italy. Gelaterias often have their gelato on display in huge heaping creamy mounds. When walking past Italy’s innumerable gelaterias, it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to indulge yourself at the sight of all that refreshing gelato, especially on a hot summer day. It is challenging to explain in words, the amazingness of my first bite of Italian gelato. I honestly think that the creamy delicious taste of my first bite of gelato is something I’ll remember forever. Since the menu was all in Italian, and I’d never tried gelato before, I let my sweet Italian family order for me. My favorite one we ordered was the vanilla gelato with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries on top, and of course…whipped cream! The other flavors we got were a banana split, peach, and chocolate crumble. VSCO Cam-6 VSCO Cam-5VSCO Cam-3 VSCO Cam-4 VSCO Cam-2VSCO Cam-1

The after picture…with very full and happy bellies. We finished every last bite of our delicious gelato!

Italian Coffee

If you know anything about me, you probably know I’m extremely addicted to coffee. This is yet another reason why I’m so in love with Italy…the home of all coffee everywhere. Coffee has become as much a characteristic of Italy as it’s pasta, pizza, and vino. It’s so much a part of Italian culture that the unthinkable idea of not drinking it is as foreign as having to explain its procedures. Italians can be very specific about the way the drink their coffee. To avoid looking like a stupid American tourist, learn how to order like a local. To experience coffee like a true Italian, order “un caffe”, and drink it while standing at the bar. If it’s in the morning, it can be ordered along with “un cornetto” (an Italian croissant).

You might be surprised upon ordering a latte in Italy, as instead of getting your usual cup of creamy foamy coffee, you’ll get a single glass of milk..no coffee. This is because in Italian, “latte” literally translates to “milk”, which I’m sure is not what you were really wanting to order. The correct way to order a coffee with milk would be, “caffe macchiato” (stained coffee). It is basically a shot of expresso, with a small amount of milk on top. In my opinion, one of the most delicious ways Italians drink coffee is a cappuccino, a light, velvety smooth combination of expresso, milk, and wet foam. However, cappuccinos are strictly for breakfast, and milky coffees are not usually drunk later throughout the day. In fact, if you order a cappuccino anytime after noon, you’ll get a strange look, and everyone will automatically know you’re a tourist (if the “confused foreigner look” didn’t already give it away). True Italians normally drink a thick, black shot of pure coffee, with no milk or sugar added. My first taste of an authentic cup of Italian coffee was at Lindt, where our expresso came with a little chocolate spoon! As I dipped my chocolate into the rich, bold Italian coffee, I realized how flavorful the true taste of coffee is without all the additional sugars, sweeteners, and milk we usually add in the US. VSCO Cam-2-1VSCO Cam-1-1

Cooking my first Italian meal: Risotto

Risotto is a deliciously creamy dish originating from Lombardy in the North of Italy. It doesn’t require much time to prepare, and is a warm hearty meal usually eaten in Italy’s cold winter months. Italians have created many different variations of Risotto that are made all over the world. I however, had Italy’s best chef (Franca) teaching me how to cook this scrumptious dish. Since the ingredients and procedure we used is extremely top-secret, it’ll remain a special recipe that I can bring back home to the US. Instead, I’ll share the most popular way this dish is cooked. Risotto is known for being difficult to cook only because the rice needs constant attention. You can’t just throw the rice in water and let it boil. The rice must be lightly toasted first, then the broth is added little by little as it is absorbed into the rice.


1 small onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice
1/2 cup white wine
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cheese (Parmesan is classic, but you can use any kind)

First the onions, celery, and carrots are chopped into smaller pieces and sautéed using olive oil over medium heat. As you’re sautéing, have the broth in another pot on a low setting and bring it to a boil. Once all the vegetables are finished cooking, add the rice to the saucepan to toast it lightly. Continue stirring the mixture so the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. The white wine is then added and stirred into the rice until it has all been absorbed. This step isn’t necessary, but recommended by true Italians for additional flavor. The broth is then added one ladel at a time, as it is slowly absorbed into the rice and vegetable mixture. It is extremely important to continue stirring the rice so it doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Ideally, you want to add just enough broth to cook the rice and no more (which can be extremely difficult to tell, unless you’ve got the help of an expert like I did). Once the rice is finished cooking, the butter is added for it’s creamy flavor. Then it’s dished out and grated parmesan is added on top for extra cheesiness. VSCO Cam-1-2


You’ve just finished the most delicious plate of pasta you’ve ever eaten…minus the remaining creamy bits remaining on your plate. After many failed attempts to scrape the remains onto your fork, you’re left with only one choice….bread! In Italy, they use the word “la scarpetta” for that moment when you just want to lick your plate clean of all that irresistible saucy goodness. “Scarpetta” means “little shoe” in Italian, and it refers to the small piece of bread that is used to mop up the last bit of sauce left on your plate that you can not possibly leave behind. Many Italians engage in this practice during informal meals or when at home. However, when eating at a formal restaurant, a fork should be used to take the bread as a “little shoe” instead of by hand. Although some people think doing “scarpetta” is considered impolite, I say, “fare la scarpetta e mangia bene!” (do the scarpetta and eat well!) Scarpetta1-640

 Italian food origins

As crazy as it may sound, there’s really no such thing as “Italian” food because each region in Italy has its own unique cuisine based on it’s history and location. Depending on what region, city, or town of Italy you’re in, the production and tradition of dishes are different, and you’ll have a different dining experience. The 20 different regions of Italy each have their own specialties that have developed over the years based on who ruled whom, the geography of the land, and the people living there. For example, in Tuscany the cuisine is based on “poor cooking”, meals that are inexpensive and can be made in large amounts. They don’t incorporate elaborate ingredients or seasonings, and choose instead to use high quality fresh ingredients that bring out the natural flavor of each dish. Tuscany is home to Italy’s richest olive oils, meat dishes, and sheep’s milk cheeses. In Milan, a region located in the North of Italy, rice tends to be more popular than pasta. and one of their popular dishes is Risotto. The reason for Milan’s abundance of rice is because of the multitudes of surrounding rice crops and farmlands, providing rice to all of Italy. Arborio and carnaroli rice are both grown in Milan, and both are used in their popular dish, Risotto.

My first week in Italy has been absolutely amazing!! I’ve tried numerous new foods, visited new places, had new experiences, and most importantly…spent time with my very special Italian family. I’m so extremely thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime journey through Europe and the chance to make memories that I’ll cherish forever. I’m also blessed to have all my friends and family supporting me from thousands of miles away. I hope my posts inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, and to never say no to something you’ve never tried at least once (e.g: riding on the back of a motorcycle going like a million mph). Thanks again for subscribing, and I hope my posts aren’t making you too hungry…or jealous 😉 VSCO Cam-1-3

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More Delicious Discoveries in Spain

I’m still trying to figure out how I can stuff all this Spanish food into my luggage and still have enough room for…anything else. Seriously though, every new food I try quickly becomes a new favorite, 99.9% of the time. The other 0.1% is basically just fish and other squirmy delicacies that have an “interesting” flavor…and texture. This past week I was able to try many new foods, eat at new restaurants, and even learned how to cook some different dishes.

La Tagliatella

Although this isn’t a “Spanish” restaurant, it is in Spain, and is now officially my favorite restaurant in the world. It is the most authentic, detail oriented Italian restaurant that I’ve ever seen. The pizza, pasta, and other dishes are all cooked to perfection and full of flavor. Their pasta portions are famous for being more than generous and enough for 2 to share. The pizzas are also ginormous, and enough for 4 people. Even the “kid’s size” pizza was enough for a family to share as an appetizer. Although it is a little pricy, it’s definitely worth the trip for date nights, celebrations, birthdays and special nights out. As you enter the restaurant, it feels very authentic and quaint, like you’ve just stepped foot into Italy. Maps of Rome, Sicily, and Florence cover the walls, and the glass chandeliers, beautifully tiled walls, and crisp white tablecloths create such a pleasant atmosphere. After being seated to a table, and ordering drinks, a plate of olives and some perfectly baked, olive and cheese stuffed breadsticks were brought out.

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Don’t even get me started on how heavenly and delectable the pasta is. When ordering pasta, there is one page with traditional pastas (spaghetti, fusilli, etc.), one page of filled pastas, and a page of different sauces that you can mix and match with the different styles of pasta. We also ordered a salad which was exceptionally fresh and tasty. After stuffing ourselves so full of all this delicious Italian food, we had no choice but to order some café con leche. Seriously though I can’t imagine a meal without it…unthinkable. Since it was my Spanish mom’s birthday, the waitress came out and surprised her with a special ice-cream dessert.

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The Good Burger

Another restaurant in Spain, that doesn’t exactly serve your typical “Spanish” food. You probably already guessed it by reading the name, it’s an American-style restaurant. I’d say this restaurant is a few steps above fast food, but still has that greasy-style American feel to it. Their burgers and fries are all delicious, especially for such low prices. On the day we ate there, they had a special going where you get 2 burgers for the price of 1. On average, the burgers cost about 4 euros, which I think is a great price for such a filling meal. One thing I found strange about this restaurant is that they serve beer and alcoholic beverages. In American fast food-type restaurants, the options for drinks are pretty much limited to soda, water, or iced tea. I was further shocked when my Spanish parents told me that the McDonalds in Madrid also serve beer and wine along with their meals. I just find it so interesting to see all the little (and big) differences in culture between countries. tgb insideTGB the good burger madridtgbVSCO Cam-4

Calamares a La Plancha

So before I told you that calamares are tasty; however, now I know of the various ways calamares can be cooked. Let’s just say..I’m not a fan of ALL types of calamares. What can I say, I’m a picky eater. To cook this kind of calamares, you basically just stick it in a pan, and let it sizzle along with some garlic for a few minutes. For this meal we also cooked fried vegetables using Tempura. Tempura is somewhat like flour, but is used to create a crunchy less-oily taste. I’ve never thought vegetables could be so delicious and irresistible. I just wanted to keep eating them. It reminded me of my dad’s favorite fried green beans from PF Changs, just without the delicious orange “secret PF Chang sauce”.VSCO Cam-3VSCO Cam-2VSCO Cam-1

Dinner at Meliã Hotel 

I went to dinner at an event my Spanish mom and grandmother were invited to at the Meliã Hotel in downtown Madrid. I didn’t know the event was so formal, and felt a bit underdressed, but altogether it was a memorable experience. The meal lasted approximately 3 hours with all it’s separate courses including salad, soup and bread, ham and potatoes, desert, and coffee. The salad had mango in it and other little surprises mixed in like pieces of shrimp and nuts making it really flavorful. Personally, the soup was my favorite and I thought the ham was interesting but I’ve definitely had better food here (cooked my my Spanish mom). The dishes were all small portions, but over the many different courses, and after the strong coffee, I couldn’t eat another bite. The waiter was really surprised that I spoke with him in Spanish for the entire time when I was ordering or if we needed something. It made me feel accomplished that I’ve learned so much Spanish while I’ve been here in Spain. I think it’s definitely helpful to be completely immersed in the culture and language, as it’s necessary for any type of communication if you ever plan on leaving your house/hotel room. VSCO Cam-3-1VSCO Cam-6-1VSCO Cam-5-1VSCO Cam-2-1VSCO Cam-1-1VSCO Cam-4-1


This dish is one of Spain’s most popular and can be found in most tapas bars and restaurants. The name “paella” comes from the Valencian word for the flat frying pan that this dish is prepared in. There are numerous different recipes for this meal, and it can be cooked using a variety of different additional ingredients. Back in the day, paella was not so glamourous and was eaten mostly by people who lived in the countryside, using simple ingredients including rice, beans, rabbit, and snails. It’s almost impossible to define what exactly paella contains, and I’m sure every cook has their own unique recipe. Modern society has definitely taken a spin on this ancient dish, and added ingredients such as seafood and chorizo. The main ingredients that can always be found in this dish include:

Ferraura (Valencian green beans/flat French beans)
Garrofo (Valencian white butter beans)

The preparation of this meal can be many hours long and is usually made for dinner or later in the day. The beans need to be soaked overnight and the meat must be cleaned and cooked before adding into the mixture of tomatoes and green beans. The rice is then prepared and finally all the ingredients are combined in this large pan. Although there are countless ways to prepare paella, mine was the most delicious because it was cooked by the greatest chef in all of Spain, my Spanish mom.

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Pisto con Huevo

Pisto is basically Spanish ratatouille, and a meal that I’ve eaten at many different restaurants, and also at our house here in Spain. It is a good option for vegetarians since this dish can be found in many restaurants as a starter, tapa, a side dish, or as a meal itself. “Pisto” is a ratatouille of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, garlic, and of course all cooked in olive oil. The competition of all these diverse flavors combined, creates such a tasty meal. I like it best served with an egg, “huevo” on top and with bread on the side. I learned from true Spaniards the correct way this meal should be eaten. The egg is cut up and mixed into the vegetables, the bread is then used to push this delicious mixture onto your fork, and into your mouth.

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Yet another tasty Spanish dish that you can’t go wrong with. It’s basically potatoes, cheese, and ham all fried up into little “meatballs”, what’s not to love? These little puppies are crisp on the outside, then warm and creamy on the inside, creating a melt-in-your-mouth goodness. There’s not really anything distinguishing croquettes as a Spanish dish, except for the fact that their name is in Spanish, and they can be found in practically every restaurant or bar throughout Spain. Their semi-liquid inside, and finger-food/ pop in your mouth feel make it almost impossible to not devour the entire batch. Careful though, the insides of these little balls of deliciousness will remain steaming hot for ages. They taste best when cut in half and cooled a bit before eating, if you have enough patience… Honestly, I’d probably enjoy eating these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and never get tired of them.


Tortilla Española 

Another dish that Spain is particularly famous for, the Spanish omelet tortilla. When most people think of a “tortilla”, it is probably wrapped around some fajitas or with cheese for quesadillas. However, these type of tortillas are much different and more like a little cake. They’ve also been referred to as, “a dramatic pancake”. Like with most Spanish dishes, people combine many different ingredients into their “Spanish omelet” to create many different district tastes. I ate my first Spanish omelet at our house here in Spain, and found it to be exceptionally delicious. In t’s most basic form, it is made with two key ingredients: eggs and potatoes. Restaurants and tapas bars all throughout Spain claim to have the best or most delicious Tortilla in all of Spain, and therefore it can be found in most typical  Spanish restaurants. Though I’ve never been there, Juana la Loca was voted the best for 3 consecutive years by natives and tourists alike. It is a hipster gourmet tapas bar, and is extremely famous for their Tortilla Española with onions. So if you ever find yourself hungry, near the center of downtown Madrid, make sure to hit this place up. It’s important to note though that they don”t accept cards, so come prepared with some extra cash.

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If you made it to the end of this without getting hungry, I’m not sure you really understand how amazing all the food here tastes.  I hope I didn’t make you too jealous of all the Spanish food, as it could be really difficult to find these dishes in America. I guess you’ll just have to start planning your visit to Spain! Thanks for subscribing to my blog and keeping updated on all my new adventures.

-The Blonde Traveler

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Madrid: Must-see Parks, Gardens and Museums

Don’t let Madrid’s bustling city and towering apartment buildings fool you. Numerous parks, botanical gardens, and gorgeous museums are scattered all throughout the city. Now while there are the more obvious, well-known museums situated in the middle of the city, there are also some smaller not-so-obvious museums that only the locals know about.

Don Justo’s Cathedral

One of the first museums I saw in Spain is the Cathedral of Justo Gallego Martinez. This unfinished cathedral is being built by an elderly man using only discarded materials and scraps, and without any use of blueprints. When you look around the interior of the cathedral, you quickly realize that the columns are made of concrete filled plastic buckets, and stairs formed from coils of wire and filled with cement and rocks. In 1961, Don Justo, a man with no prior construction or architectural education, decided to built a cathedral as his way to serve God.  In 1961, the small town of Mejorada de Campo was a small farming community, and no one really cared if Justo began construction without any building permits. Day after day of nonstop working, and 55 years later, Justo is still building, and it’s about 75% complete. Justo says that each morning he set out collecting bricks, blocks, oil drums, plastic, pieces of steel, and cemented things together piece by piece. When we walked into the entrance of the cathedral, I was amazed to see Justo, hard at work, constructing some cement pipes above our heads. It has been said that he works into the wee hours of the early morning, and then the next day, he’s up to build more. Entrance to the museum is free, however, donations are accepted in a box by the door. There is also a book for visitors to sign and give words of encouragement to Justo as he continues to build until final completion.don justo museumVSCO Cam-1 VSCO Cam-2 VSCO Cam-3

Parque Europa

A visit to this park is definitely necessary as you can say you visited all different countries in Europe, in only a few short hours! Maybe you’ll actually want to go visit the “real” monuments, but Parque Europa is special because it has 17 scale replicas of famous European monuments located throughout the park. Each monument has a sign with a description of the landmark, and the country it’s from. While walking through the park, you travel to France to Germany to Berlin and back to Madrid. Entrance to the park is free, however there are also attractions and activities such as: zip lines, a petting zoo, row boats, laser maze, bicycles, and trampolines which do cost extra. I really enjoyed this park because of the peaceful atmosphere it offers, and I got to dream of my future travels to some of Europe’s beautiful landmarks. For a description of each monument included in Parque Europa, hours, and directions, visit their website at http://www.parqueeuropa.esVSCO Cam-1-1 VSCO Cam-2-1 VSCO Cam-3-1 VSCO Cam-4parque europa

Retiro Park

No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to El Retiro Parque, the Central Park of Madrid. This ginormous park is home to over 15,000 trees, and also includes some very important gardens. Marbled monuments, greenery, elegant buildings, and carefully landscaped lawns can be found throughout the 320 acres of El Retiro. People from Madrid come to visit El Retiro to row the boats in the lake, drink a coffee at one of the outdoor cafes, have a picnic, or just stroll through and breathe the fresh flowery-filled air. This park was built by King Philip IV as a retreat for the royal family and wasn’t opened to the public until 1868. VSCO Cam-5VSCO Cam-2-3 VSCO Cam-3-2 VSCO Cam-1-3 retiro parkTwo large palaces are also located among the greenery and gardens of Retiro Park, Velázquez Palace and the Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal). The Crystal Palace is a large, iron framed building, built almost entirely out of glass with a brick base. It is a beautiful palace that was designed to display a collection of tropical plants from the Philippines. It is currently home to various modern art exhibitions, and is a well-known attraction in Madrid. Entrance is free, and although the modern art contraptions are a bit strange, the gorgeous glass domed structure makes it worth a visit! palacio crystalpalacio crystal 2VSCO Cam-1-2 VSCO Cam-2-2

The Palacio de Velázquez is another beautiful palace covered in glass and steel domes, creating an interior filled with natural light. It was inspired by the Crystal Palace in London, and measures approximately 29 m by 74 m. It is used by the Reina Sofia Museum, to hold their temporary exhibitions and additional artwork by various artists. It’s currently home to Swiss artist Rémy Gauge’s exhibition titled, “Issues of Perception”. Rémy has 130 pieces on display that illustrate the wide range of languages, color, and disciplines. He focuses on perception and the relationship between the viewer and the art work, in his words, “without perception, there is no work of art”. When we entered this Museum, I thought the pieces were only there while new ones were coming in, or they has just undergone renovation or something. This was until I laid eyes on one piece titled “Pink”, artist name and everything, and the artwork…a solid pink canvas.  However, other pieces did contain words in various languages and colors, creating a modern feel. I’m still unsure as to whether or not I understand Remy’s take on artwork, although that’s probably largely due to the fact that I couldn’t understand most of the languages. Even the one written in English was strange. remy gaugeVSCO Cam-1-4 VSCO Cam-2-4 VSCO Cam-3-3 VSCO Cam-4-2

Museo Del Prado

This Museum is definitely one of those really obvious, “HELLO tourists”, must-see, places in Madrid. It contains the most complete collections of Spanish paintings ranging from 11th-18th centuries and masterpieces by well-known artists from around the world. This museum is actually the largest art gallery in the world. Aside from paintings, it also exhibits sculptures, drawings, documents, clothing, coins, and other works of art. Approximately 2,000 paintings can be found on the walls of this grandiose museum, and another 6,000 remain covered, due to lack of additional wall space. The artwork pieces are from Spanish, Italian, and Flemish schools, with world-famed paintings such as Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May, 1808. Admission is free for students with a valid student ID, and the general tickets cost €3. However, if you visit at 6 pm, 2 hours prior to close time, admission for everyone is free. I’d recommend buying a ticket though, unless you plan to visit the entire museum in under 2 hours (probably impossible). Since I visited the museum later in the day, I got stuck waiting in line with hundreds of other people for the “free after-6” time. Eventually, I made it inside, and got to walk through the first exhibition hall, and only see a few pieces of art due to it being so late. With the size of this Museum, you really could spend the entire day in there. I think it’s best to plan for a couple visits, as it could be overwhelming trying to take it all in in just one day. Among the many different artists who have their work on display in Del Prado, my favorite was Goya’s 3rd of May, 1808. I studied this painting in my Humanities class just a few semesters ago and was intrigued by the way Goya depicted the execution of Madrileños and the brutality of the French takeover of Spain. VSCO Cam-5-1 VSCO Cam-6VSCO Cam-1-5 VSCO Cam-2-5 VSCO Cam-3-4 VSCO Cam-4-3

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

This Museum is much different than Del Prado, and includes over 20,000 pieces of artwork from some of Spain’s most famous artists. The Museums’ collection includes many works by one of Spain’s greatest painters, Pablo Picasso, whose name should sound familiar to pretty much everyone. Their prized painting, that’s honestly worth admission alone, is none other than Picasso’s piece, “Guernica”. The works in this museum are divided into 3 different sections displaying work from the 1900’s up to the 20th century. My adventure through this Museum began when I stepped foot into one of the glass elevators, taking me up to where I thought the “Guernica” was. On the ride up to the 3rd floor, there was an amazing view of the square and buildings below. To be honest, I was really only curious to see Picasso’s pieces, as I’m not such a huge fan of museums. Shortly after I got my hands on an English map, I realized Picasso’s “Guernica” is actually located on the second floor, in room 206 to be exact.

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Personally, I like the Museo Del Prado more because of it’s grand historical feel, while the Reina Sofia has more of a modernized atmosphere. Altogether, it was a unquestionably a peaceful day spent in downtown Madrid. I’m seriously loving every second of my summer spent here in Europe and can’t wait for many more adventures!

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Top 9 Places to visit in Centro de Madrid

I had my first experience on the Metro for our day in the center of downtown Madrid, a short ride from my house. Traveling through Madrid could not possibly be any easier. Every day over 2 million people travel by public transportation and Madrid’s system has been named one of the most efficient and effective in the world. For the metro, the cost of a one-way ticket is determined depending on your destination: the base fare is 1,50€ and includes five stations. If you travel farther you have to add 10 cents per station up to a maximum of 2€. A single ticket to ride the bus costs 1,50€ but if you know you’ll be staying for a longer period of time, it’s better to purchase a “bonometro” for 12€ which includes 10 rides and can be used either for bus or metro. At peak hours, the metro can become extremely similar to being in a can of sardines, lots and lots of people, and not so much room. Packed metros are also a prime spot for pickpockets. When on any type of public transportation, no matter what country you’re in, keep your backpack in front of you, and either a cross-body purse or keep your purse zipped and tucked under your arm. Unlike other subways in different cities like New York, the Madrid subway closes between the hours of 1:30 am to 6 am. Another surprising fact about the metro here is that all the doors have latches or buttons that need to be pressed in order for the doors to open. One reason why taking public transportation is so much smarter than driving is the huge parking problem in the downtown area. I remember one night when I went out to dinner with Ixi and her boyfriend (Nico) and after arriving at the restaurant, it took an additional 30 minutes to find a free parking space. This is another reason why the metro can become extremely busy during hours when people are traveling to and from work. On our way to the center of Madrid, I made my very first purchase here in Spain and bought a metro ticket!

Madrid is hands down one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals with all its well preserved architecture and historic monuments. Even if you’re not a history geek, Madrid’s historic sites are a prominent addition to your Madrid itinerary.IMG_8073IMG_8075

1.Palacio de Cibeles

Upon exiting the Metro, the first thing that caught my eye was the gorgeous monumental well-famed old post office. The post office underwent stunning massive renovations in it’s transformation into the Palacio de Cibeles. Today it functions as the city hall and the headquarters for Centro Centro, a proposal by Madrid to spread culture, art, and design. This beautiful monumental building offers both Spaniards and visitors, a place to exchange cultural ideas and information, and engage in contemporary culture. It’s grandiose appearance can be attributed to architects Antonio Palacios and Joaquin Otamendi, whose use of both Gothic and Spanish styles combine to create a cathedral-like feel. In 2011, a huge spectacular glass dome was built over the buildings’ central vaulted courtyard. The glass dome weighs approximately 500 tons and covers an area of 2,500 sq m. After walking around inside the Palacio de Cibeles and learning about the renovations it underwent, we slipped into the Cibeles Cafe for some mid-day coffee.IMG_8081Processed with VSCO with c1 presetpalacio de Cibeles glass domeVSCO Cam-3-4VSCO Cam-1VSCO Cam-4-2 VSCO Cam-2-4

2.Fuente de la Cibeles

In front of the Palace is the Cibeles Fountain containing a sculpture of the classical goddess Cibeles, sitting in a chariot pulled by lions. The statue is known to represent Madrid itself and the place where Real Madrid celebrates their soccer victories. Actually just last night, Real Madrid had yet another magical moment as they celebrated la Undécima crown they won in Milan. At the end of the final, tens of thousands of fans gathered around the fountain, enduring the rain and awaiting the arrival of the players to celebrate their triumph. They arrived at the fountain at around 7:30 am, where over 30,000 supporters welcomed the team home.cibeles-fountainreal madrid cibelescibeles real madrid arrivalcibeles real madrid trophy

3.Vertical Garden

Madrid’s dramatic 4-story vertical garden is known as one of the most luscious walls in the world, and was definitely one of my favorite things we saw in Centro de Madrid. It was designed by Patrick Blanc in 2008, and it’s fascinating combination of colors and textures make it resemble an environmentally friendly type of graffiti. Flowing plants, ivy, and shrubbery create splotches of greens, yellows, reds, and yellows. This incredible botanical sculpture consists of over 250 different species of plants, and approximately 15,000 plants total on the living wall. The irrigation system is an automatic drip system, starting at the top of the wall, and is absorbed by the felt and roots as it travels down the wall.vertical garden madridvertical garden and elephant

After some relief from the sun, and more time taking in the beauty of this gorgeous green wall, we set out to find the best bocadillos de calamares in Madrid. According to Spaniards, and myself, “you can’t say you’ve been to Madrid until you try a bocadillo de calamares.” Now I know I say this about every single new food I try here, but this is seriously one of my TOP favorites. It is basically a fried squid sandwich, and can be found in almost every restaurant in centro de Madrid. It consists of crusty fresh bread with deep fried, flour coated rings of squid, and mayonnaise on the side. The restaurant we went to is called El Brilliante, most well-known for their scrumptious bocadillos de calamares. First they served us potato chips and drinks, I got Tinto de Verano (of course).  Then, the calamares!! I’d been hearing of how amazing the calamares are for my first few weeks here in Spain, and they did live up to their full potential. Then afterwards…icecream! Delicioso!el brillante restaurantVSCO Cam-5-3VSCO Cam-4-3VSCO Cam-3-5 VSCO Cam-2-5 VSCO Cam-1-2

4.Atocha Train Station

A.K.A: The first train station in Madrid. It was inaugurated in 1851, and is both the oldest and largest train station in Madrid. The original building was almost completely destroyed in a fire, and it’s renovation included a newer design, indoor shopping mall, and a large tropical garden. Since the old structure couldn’t cope with modern transportation requirements, the garden and shopping area replaced where the tracks once were. An entirely new section of the train station was added for the high speed AVE train. One thing I found interesting about this train station, was the fee for using the restroom. The railway company assigned management of restrooms to “2theloo toilets”, a company that specializes these services. They charge 60 cents to use the restroom, and claim their goal is to improve the quality of service for all users. Although pay-restrooms are common throughout Europe, it was my first time ever seeing one in Spain, a memorable moment for sure when you’ve got to go, but don’t have change.VSCO Cam-9atocha train station

 5.Plaza Mayor

Madrid’s grand central square, a large open area amongst the crazy, small crowded surrounding streets of Madrid. The square is surrounded by three story residential buildings with many flower-filled balconies facing the Plaza. Located at the center of the square is a statue of King Philip III, who reigned in 16167 during the original construction of Plaza Mayor. Restaurants and cafes also surround the plaza, offering a relaxing atmosphere for all.VSCO Cam-3-6 VSCO Cam-2-6plaza mayor

Next, more cafe(coffee)! We stopped at a small outdoor cafe and sat under an umbrella near the Plaza Mayor to enjoy a refreshing cup of café con leche.VSCO Cam-4-4

6.Cathedral de la Almudena

This cathedral has more of a sophisticated, modern architecture then most other cathedrals found throughout Spain. It’s intricate ceilings do little to make up for the lack of old-world feel that distinguishes great cathedrals. In the different chapels, this Neo-Gothic style cathedral contains statues of contemporary artists which have been considered historic “pop art” decor. When the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, King Philip II wanted a new cathedral for the capital. However, construction didn’t begin until 1879, and wasn’t completed until 1993 due its abandonment during the Spanish Civil War. Since the cathedral is more recent than most, it’s design is considered modern in comparison with the old-renaissance feel of most cathedrals here in Spain. VSCO Cam-5-5VSCO Cam-2-7VSCO Cam-6-4VSCO Cam-7-4Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

7.Palacia Real (Royal Palace of Madrid) 

The Royal Palace is a top tourist attraction in Madrid, and something you can’t leave without visiting. Even the outside of the Palace is grand and impressive, and the large iron gate at the entrance creates a castle-like feel. It is the largest building in all of Madrid, and the largest Royal Palace in all of Western Europe. It is not “the King’s residence” but rather the building in which ceremonies, official banquets, and other state meetings take place. The palace gardens are called Campo de Moro, and is a large park with Romanesque style. After entering through the large iron gate, visitors walk through the Plaza de la Armeria, a large square located in front of the Palace. Some of the rooms available for viewing are 400m2 large dining room, and the throne room with red velvet walls. The important works of art by many well-known artists, valuable tapestries, furniture, and expensive ceramics inside the Palace make it one of Europe’s most important museums.VSCO Cam-4-5VSCO Cam-3-7royal palace royal palace inside

8.El Corte Inglés

Spain’s biggest department store, basically the Macys of Spain. El Corte Inglés sells everything from stationary and home decor to clothes, jewelry and souvenirs- it even has it’s own supermarket. The main reason why we went into this large shopping center, was for their 9th floor Gourmet Experience, a food hall with stunning views of Madrid’s Gran Via and the famed Schweppes sign. This view can be admired from their enclosed glass window cafe, or on the outdoor terrace. Either way, the view is absolutely amazing for seeing many different monuments of centro de Madrid. They have a variety of different food stalls including sushi, burgers, quesadillas, pizza, ect.. You’re then able to have your meal at the tables provided in each individual restaurant, or eat in the main dining area while enjoying the amazing view. The top floor also has a unique supermarket where you’re able to purchase international gourmet products such as sauces, jams, and oil that can’t be found in any other location.el corte ingles viewel corte ingles view 2el corte ingles viewgourmet expereince el corte inglesgourmet experience el corte ingles 2


One of the latest additions to Madrid’s Gran Via is the low cost fashion chain, Primark. It’s 5 floors and over 12,000 sq m make it seriously one of the biggest clothing stores I’ve ever seen!  With it’s 131 cash registers and 91 fitting rooms, it has been named Spain’s largest shop. I found all the clothes in Primark to be really excellent quality, especially at their extremely low prices. I didn’t buy any clothes because we were shopping for my Abuelo(grandpa), but soon I’ll be going for a girls shopping day with Ixi to shop till we drop! primark inside primark outsideAnother busy busy day!! I can’t find enough words to describe how amazing Spain is. The atmosphere, the food, the people, the buildings, the parks, the coffee, the restaurants, and so many other details that are making this the most relaxing and perfect summer ever. Thanks for subscribing and make sure to stay updated for more tips on what to do when in Spain, and also to hear about all my new adventures while abroad!

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Visiting San Lorenzo de El Escorial

We spent the night at the campground and woke up the next morning ready for another day of adventuring. First, I had my first trip to a meat shop in Spain, which may not seem like such a big deal to you. The meat shops here though, are much different than the way we buy meat in America. Usually back at home, my family goes to Publix or Sams, and the meat is pre-packaged and ready to buy. Spaniards love their meat, and the butcher shops are in great abundance here. All the meat is one of Spain’s most treasured delicacies and exports. At the shop we went to, La Finca de Jiménez Barbero, they have any kind of meat imaginable behind the glass counter including lamb, cow, pig, hams, jamón, sausages, BBQ, birds, cheeses, wine, and gourmet meats. Everyone who works there seems more like a family, and instead of just meat, they call it “the meat of happiness”. Through their handwork to fuss over every small detail from the breed, food, health, and well being of their animals, they demonstrate their principle that happy animals mean happy customers. Their quest for excellence, joined with respect for animals, has led them to be pioneers in a truly traditional way, creating a unique place, and an international model for meat shops all over the world. La Finca de Jiménez Barbero is more than a place, it is a hope shared by three brothers, a dream come true, and is open for anyone who wants to understand and experience nature in a closer way. My Spanish parents go to that meat shop whenever they come camping, and are close with everyone who works there. Next…to take it all and put into the fridge at the campground!

Silla de Felipe II

Afterwards, we went to the Silla de Felipe II, “silla” meaning chair of King Philip II. At the top of the mountain, the “chair” has a view of El Escorial against the Guadarrama Mountains This rock-made chair was the place King Philip II sat and watched the building of his Palace and Monastery in 1584. It was built to commemorate the victory over the French in 1557 at the Battle of San Quintin. The surrounding forest and mountains are part of Guadarrama National Park and create such a peaceful atmosphere. There are also picnic tables set up, and a small bar on site that opens later in the afternoon. Honestly, the chair was a bit uncomfortable since it was made of granite and rock. The breathtaking view definitely makes up for that though, and I’d much rather be sitting in that chair than be one of the people working to build the Monastery below. After sitting in the seat of a King, we were ready to eat like a King, and had my favorite meal once again! Jamón. We found a relaxing little picnic table with the perfect breeze, and used the jamón we bought earlier on bread for bocadillos de jamón.

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VSCO Cam-5With a full belly, and in desperate need of coffee, we drove a bit more up the mountain to a restaurant called Horizontal. We ordered the same drinks as always, 1 café con leche caliente (hot) in a glass, 1 café con leche frio (cold) in a glass, and 1 café con hielo (ice).

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I know what you’re thinking, “coffee again??” I honestly don’t know what I would do without my daily mug(s) of Spanish joe…I’m so in love with all the coffee here.

Next on the schedule: The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

El Escorial was the Royal Residence for the King of Spain, King Phillip II. It is located about 45 km from Madrid, and is a popular destination for people to experience the beauty of Spain, and what a day in the life of a King would be like. El Escorial is a large building complex that includes a church, monastery, palace, college, and a library arranged in a quadrangle. The interior was designed by many notable Spanish and Italian artists of the 16th and 17th centuries. Nowhere else in Renaissance art do all pieces of architecture, painting, and sculpture come together to create a composition of such unified beauty in which every small detail is important in creating the perfect final combination. VSCO Cam-11

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El Escorial Village

Originally the monastery stood in an isolated countryside location, with few surrounding buildings. However, Charles III ordered that a small courtly city be built to not only accommodate the royalty, but also commoners. It’s design is attributed to Juan Bautista de Toledo, Spanish pupil of Michelangelo and architect of many Italian buildings in Rome. Toledo was appointed responsible for the architectural plans of El Escorial: Monastery, El Escorial village and La Granville. After Toledo’s death, Juan de Villanueva fully embraced the Italian feel of the Enlightenment, and completed the remaining plans for the city. El Escorial has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and even to this day, remains one of Spain’s most visited locations.

After we walked through different buildings of the El Escorial Monastery, we ventured into the Italian-like surrounding city. In this little quaint Italian city we found the cutest bistro and ordered some coffee while sitting out in the perfect weather.VSCO Cam-3-3

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Cocido Madrileño

It would be a crime to post this without any mention of one of my new favorite Spanish meals, Cocido. This dish is probably the most representative of Madrid’s traditional cuisine. This nationally celebrated meal dates back to the Middle Ages. The preparation for this meal is quite long, and the meal is often eaten mid-day. The garbanzo beans are cooked while inside of a “netting” to keep them from going to the bottom of the pot and breaking. This dish contains many different cured and smoked meat products and the bones, cooked along with chickpeas, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage.  It is traditionally served in either 2 or 3 courses, and has been referred to as the “most filling dish a human has attempted to eat”. The first stage is usually broth with noodles, followed by legumes and vegetables, leaving the meat for the last course. We ate ours in 2 different stages, first the strained broth “caldo”, with some small round noodles to create a type of chicken noodle taste (but like a million times better). For the second course, we had the veggies and potatoes along with the meat including morcilla (Spanish black sausage), chorizo, and chicken. Also included in the dish is “Tocino”, which is the fat of the pork. I found it was really delicious when it’s mashed with potatoes and other vegetables. We also had bread on the side of course for dipping into the caldo, and for eating alongside the meat. It is normally stretched out into three courses, and seems like it could be a never ending lunch. According to Amy from weareneverfull.com, when they visited Madrid, it took them over 2 hours to finish eating this filling meal! Cocido has quickly become one of my favorite foods here in Spain, and I’m sure it won’t be my last time eating it.

The main dish at La Bola. Cocido. clockwise from top left: cabbage, the caldo or soup, main dish of chickpeas and meats, bread, the clay pot which is used to boil the stew and a platter of condiments containing tomato pure, pickled chilis and onions.

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My visit to El Escorial, the Monastery, and the Silla de Felipe II are moments that I’ll always cherish as it gave me an opportunity to learn more about this beautiful country. I’m so thankful for my Spanish parents for taking me camping in our little house up in the Guadarrama mountains. I keep falling in love with Spain more and more everyday…and no it’s not just the food that I love. My favorite part about being here in Madrid are the people that I’m able to make so many special memories with. Thank you for subscribing to my blog! I hope you’re able to come along on this journey with me, maybe you’ll be inspired to also travel to Spain and experience some of the most amazing adventures awaiting you.

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A Weekend Camping in las Montañas

Definitely a special weekend that I’ll never forget. We drove to a small town called El Escorial, Spain and stayed in my Spanish family’s little house in a campground area. Since we arrived pretty late, we walked through the campground in the peacefulness of the dark, quiet field surrounded on all sides by mountains and gorgeous trees. When we got back to the cabin, my Spanish dad (also an amazing cook) made the most amazing jamón and cheese sandwiches breaded using flour and eggs.

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For breakfast the next morning, we had my favorite jamón and oil toast, then started on our journey out to Segovia. Segovia is known for being one of Spain’s most historic cities for its conservation of numerous monuments and architecture. Although the origin of the city remains a mystery, it is known that it was inhabited in pre-roman times. From afar, I was able to see the Roman Aqueduct, the most famous monument of Segovia, and one of the best conserved Roman Aqueducts in the world. The aqueduct was built by the Romans in the first century A.D. for transporting water to the city 15 km away. It has 163 arches, and reaches heights of 29 meters. It is supported by stone blocks from the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains and is built with no glue, plaster, or any material to hold the 20,400 blocks together. This just demonstrates the precision that the Romans built with. The Aqueduct serves as the entrance to Segovia, and creates a magical city with it’s cobblestone roads and rolling hills against the views of Guadarrama mountains.

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After taking in all the beauty of this monument, we started walking into the heart of Segovia. For me, it was truly love at first sight, like a little Spanish version of Italy. With all it’s greenery, cafes, cobblestone tree-lined streets, balconies, alleys, and european-feel, I wanted to move in and never leave. Haha not really.. but it was gorgeous!!

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After walking around the city some, we stopped to get a small snack, drinks and bread with chorizo (a type of pork sausage). Spanish chorizo is a sausage that is dried in a casing, and is sold ready-to-eat like salami. They can be cooked smoked or unsmoked, and may sometimes taste sweet. Since it is made with smoked paprika, it has a vibrant red color. Chorizos can be eaten in their casing, and are often found served as tapas on toast. On another note…why are all Spain’s bottles so vintagey-antique looking? Am I the only one who just wants to stash them all away in my purse?

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After a little recharging, we continued venturing further and further into Segovia and found ourselves in the middle of Segovia Plaza Mayor. Plaza Mayor is a shady area lined by cafes, restaurants, and shops with a large open pavilion in the center, located in the center of Segovia. The plaza also has a beautiful view of the Segovia Cathedral (The Cathedral of Santa Maria), located at the highest point of the city. It was built as early as 1525, in Gothic architectural style. The entire inside of the Cathedral was intricately sculpted and contains a major altarpiece built with marble, jaspers, and bronze, 23 chapels, a large organ (still in use), and artistic works of art throughout.

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 Although the cathedral is Gothic in style, it’s soaring ceilings and large spaces create a Renaissance feel. After visiting the Cathedral, we went looking for somewhere to have lunch. We found a small patio-type restaurant under large umbrellas and decided to sit down and take a look at the menu. However, since it was located right beside the Aqueduct, I think the prices and food style was geared more towards tourists and visitors. We left and found another quaint indoor Spanish restaurant nearby and after a quick glance at the menu, decided that was the better option. Our waitress was really sweet and actually spoke some English. She explained some of the menu to me, but most of the entrees were things I’d never tried before, so I decided to share something with my Spanish mom.

We shared a dish with Judiones and churizo, judiones are a type of massive beans in Spain. They are soaked in water first for 24 hours, then strained before they are cooked, to create the perfect combination of not-too-soft/ not-too-hard beans. Then we got a salad and a type of Spanish ribs, which basically tasted like ribs back home in the states. My Spanish padre got a very Spanish Russian Salad…a classy version of potato salad, originating from Moscow. In Spain, they usually add potatoes, carrots, peas, mayonnaise, and sometimes tuna. For dessert we had cuajada and compota de manzana. Cuajada was traditionally a dish made by shepherds who heated the milk, then added lamb curd. Some say, no visit to Spain is complete without having “cuajada”.. but is it really THAT good? Obviously everyone has their own opinion, but the creamy, milky smoothness quickly becomes a favorite for most. It is usually served with honey or walnuts and can be a dessert or for breakfast (or maybe just a snack). Compota de manna is basically applesauce and is made by cooking apples with added honey, cooling in the fridge, then its ready to enjoy! It was really good, but similar to other apple desserts we have in America. After dessert, coffee!!! You can’t ever forget the coffee 🙂 Spanish café con leche is better than any coffee imaginable in America, and always a must!


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After lunch, we went to do more sightseeing throughout Segovia and began the journey back into the heart of the city.

Alcazar de Segovia, also known for being the most famed castle in Spain with it’s fairytale-like features. There are also rumors that Walt Disney received much of his inspiration from the Alcazar de Segovia. Disney says they received ideas and inspiration from European-style architecture, but they don’t give away their true secrets! The castle was originally a fortress, built upon the remains of a Roman fort. It was then transformed into a royal palace for King Alfonso VIII of Castile and his wife. In later years, it was abandoned as Madrid became the bustling city of Spain and center of political life. During this time, the Alcazar served as a prison, where several different important people were confined. You are able to go into the castle and get a peek of what the life of royalty was like hundreds of years ago. However, when we went to Segovia, the castle was closed and we weren’t able to see the interior.


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Then again…more coffee!! This time we had an excuse; Segovia is a very vast, hilly, city requiring lots of walking, so we needed to recharge with some caffeine. We also had a typical Spanish desert that Segovia is famous for, Ponche cake. It is made with custard, cake, and marzipan, all held in place with syrup. It consists of several layers off cake, drenched in syrup, and and egg-like cream between each later. It is then covered with a thick layer of marzipan (an almond sweet custard).

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After a relaxing break in the cute little cafe, we continued strolling through the beautiful streets of Segovia. It was such a perfect day to walk throughout the city and take in all the beauty of Segovia. We began walking back towards the aqueduct and saw a marionette street performer. Although it was a bit creepy, it was also interesting and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. The marionettes are beautifully handcrafted in a way that makes it look life-like. The puppeteer uses strings to control  the movements of the doll from above. The marionettes were playing instruments so beautifully, and it was amazing to see with what delicacy the puppeteer controlled the dolls in order to make them play their instruments. On our way back to the car, the sun was beginning to set, and we caught a glimpse of the beautiful Aqueduct once again.

marionette street performer

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That night, back at the campground, I was so full of coffee… but also so full of peace and awe at all the beauty of Spain. As we walked through the fields of the campground, surrounded by the vast mountains, I knew that this weekend was one I’d remember forever. It is so amazing to believe God created such a big beautiful world, from the mountains of Segovia, to the beaches of Florida. It’s very important to get away from all the hustle and bustle of life and the rush of work, to enjoy being in the peaceful presence of your Creator, the one who holds the entire galaxy in His hands.

What a long day spent in Segovia!! If you’re ever in Madrid, this little city is a must see! It’s about a 50 minute drive from Madrid, but well worth it! Make sure you plan on spending the entire day there, there’s so much to see! Don’t go to Segovia without seeing the Cathedral, Castle, or the Roman Aqueduct, the most important monuments. Thanks for staying updated on my travels!! Make sure to subscribe!

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Spain- My One True Love

My first thoughts….”What a gorgeous city!!”

Since I had an overnight flight, it was strange to have dinner on the plane, then have breakfast come just a few hours later because of the time difference. The plane left from Atlanta around 5 pm, and arrived in Madrid at 2 am(US time), but with the time difference, it was 8 am. Spain was just waking up and ready for a new day, I, on the other hand, was ready for a long nap 🙂 After a recharging nap, Lana (mi pequeño perro) helped me to get everything unpacked.

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The food in Spain is all absolutely amazing, and makes me never want to eat American food again. Seriously though… Spain is known as the “huerta de Europa”, the “garden of Europe” and is known for it’s fresh food and produce. Due to globalization and many people’s love of American hamburgers, many burger joints and American-style restaurants have opened in Spain. For lunch we went to a popular American restaurant called Fosters Hollywood. It was the first American food chain to open in Madrid, and serves classic American food like chicken nuggets, hamburgers, salad, french fries, and sandwiches. The meal we chose came with 2 small entrees, and a desert. I got a feta cheese salad with feta cheese, and a tuna sandwich. Another one of the first differences I noticed in Madrid is the portion sizes, which are much smaller than we have in America. Ixi and my Spanish madre shared a cheesy chicken burger, buffalo salisbury steaks, and chili and cheese fries. All the food tasted like typical American food, except fresher and with more flavor. It almost felt like I was still in America, especially since I was still all mixed up from the time difference. fosters hollywoodfosters chili cheese friesfosters menu

On the second day, my wonderful Spanish parents, “padres” took me to their hair salon “peluqueria” in Madrid. They treated me like a Princess there and washed my hair, curled it, and did my makeup. Everyone who works there was so sweet and patient by helping me to learn the Spanish words for all the different types of makeup.

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Then, I took Lana, out for a walk in Juan Carlos I Park, which is seriously the biggest park I’ve ever seen. It was built around 1990, and aimed to become an emblematic site of Madrid. It was named in honor of Juan Carlos I, the King of Spain. The park has many modern sculptures, leisure areas, walking/biking paths, playgrounds, and areas for picnics. It covers 220 hectares, with 13 kilometres of paths surrounding and throughout the park. There are also beautiful gardens and flowers, and is such a peaceful place to go. If you bring your passport, you’re able to rent a bicycle for the day, to cycle around the park and see all the different architecture and sculptures.

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The food in Spain is soooo good! I can’t even say this enough to explain how fresh and delicious everything is. I went out for dinner with my sister to a “bar” where they also serve food whenever you buy a drink. It’s very different in Europe because they have many bars everywhere where people will stop to have a coffee or a drink, not always alcoholic. There are over 8,000 bars/pubs in Madrid alone, and more in the surrounding cities of Spain. For Spaniards, drinking coffee is a way of life. There are some traditional bars/cafés where you can stand at the counter, and drink your coffee from a glass. Other cafés offer outdoor patios and umbrellas where you’re able to enjoy the breathtaking views of Spain while sipping on your café con leche. Café con leche is the most popular way to drink coffee in Spain in the morning. It is half café solo, and half hot milk. Café solo is an extremely strong black coffee, most often served in a small cup or glass. Another popular way to drink coffee is Café del tiempo/con hielo, which is a shot of expresso in a single cup, and a glass of ice in the other cup. You pour the expresso over the ice, perfect for those blistering hot summer days. Café Cortado is another type of coffee, a single shot of expresso, topped with only a small amount of milk.

cafe con leche

In Spain, people usually meet with friends in cafés or bars, instead of going to each others house. Coffee is usually drank first in the morning, then another pick-me-up around 11:00, again after lunch, and of course after dinner before bed. I think I was truly meant to be a Spaniard, since I love drinking coffee no matter what time of day it is. For breakfast, Spanish people usually have croissants, baguettes, or cookies. One of my very favorite things that we eat for breakfast is “tostada con tomate”, a toasted baguette topped with oil, grated tomato, and sometimes with jamón (Spanish ham). At many bars, smaller meals are served which are usually much cheaper than going to a “sit down restaurant”. It’s common for people in Spain to have a typical “mid-day” snack of café con leche, and a bocadillo (a baguette type sandwich), this mid-day snack even has it’s own name, “El Almuerzo”. Another common mid-afternoon meal is “tapas” small plates or snacks that are usually finger food. Lunch is then usually eaten around 2-4ish, and is the main meal of the day. Typically in Spain, people have a2-3 hour break from school to have lunch, “la comida” and take a short rest or nap. In Spain, every meal is much later then when we eat in America, and dinner is never before 9-10 pm. Sometimes rather than sitting down in a restaurant for dinner, Spaniards enjoy meeting up and having many different tapas at a bar.

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Bocadillo y jamón


After having dinner, we went to a little desert shop called Mistura, where they serve the best ice-cream/deserts in Spain. While traveling in India, the founders of Mistura, Carlos Sotomayor and Carmelo Rodríguez, became inspired to open a similar ice-cream shop in Madrid to one they found while in India. Its big success and popularity in Madrid has led the owners to opening another location in Plaza Mayor, near the center of Madrid. The shop is quite small with a bar and only a few seats, so most customers use take-away and take their sweet treats to go. At their new location however, they have additional seating in the basement for cold winter days. They serve ice-cream, yogurt, fruit juice, waffles, muffins, milkshakes, and different coffees and teas.

Their handcrafted, customized ice-cream is what fascinated me most. Using a frozen granite slab and a pair of metal spatulas, they fold your toppings into the ice cream once you’ve ordered, to create a perfect combination of texture and mixture of ingredients. One distinction of Mistura from your traditional ice-cream shop is the origin of their ingredients. The shop received approval from the health authorities, and now buy their organic milk unpasteurized.  Then they incorporating the sugar and the selected flavors, which is then pasteurized just once, resulting in a much superior flavor. Their organic milk and eggs are purchased from a small farm close to Madrid, and their fruits and vegetables are mostly of Spanish origin. Though the shop uses most ingredients of Spanish origin, they also like to create the best representation of each taste by using pistachios from Sicily, Vanilla from Madagascar, dulce de leche from Argentina, coffee from Columbia, and mangoes from Brazil (etc)… Their ice-cream is so delicious because it contains no artificial flavors, no preservatives, and no chemical additives. They also serve fruit and vegetable juices, iced tea, coffees, cakes, yogurt, waffles, and crepes. They’re also known as a popular destination for coffee lovers, and use 100% arabica beans from Columbia, Brazil, Guatemala, and Ethiopia. All the staff are trained as baristas and use their top-notch Dalla Corte Evo 2, a new coffee machine from Italy, with a price tag topping $10,000. If you haven’t been here yet, and you’re planning to visit Madrid, its a must to stop by Mistura!

You can also see pictures of their delicious food on their instagram… @misturaicecream. Just a warning though, it may make you hungry!!

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mistura ice counter

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Last but not least, I went to my very first rugby game with Ixi and Nico. Many different teams come to the field to play against each other for either “full” 40 minute games, or a game of “sevens”, which is where 7 players from each team play against each other. The usual number of players from each team is 15, so the games are much shorter, and the players have to run a lot more because they’re aren’t as many people to pass the ball to. The field was surrounded by other buildings and had such a beautiful atmosphere. Many other people came to watch the game. While the other teams are playing, various other players have time to recoup and rest.


So far, Madrid is all absolutely beautiful! More than the food, I love the family who has been taking care of me and showing me all the wonderful places to go and things to do in Madrid. My Spanish is slowly improving and soon I’ll be fluent for sure!! Lots and lots of practice! Much thanks to all my subscribers and friends and family keeping up to date on my travels. Thanks for all the love and comments!


Table For One Please

You might have already guessed it.. yes! I am preparing for my next overseas adventure, this time to Europe!! At this exact time, one week from today, I’ll be sitting in seat 32A (Aisle seat of course), on my way to Madrid, Spain! I’ll be staying with close friends and over the summer I’ll be taking Interrail (the train traveling to and from different European countries) to visit many different places including Milan, Italy and Paris, France! I’ll be keeping all my lovely subscribers up to date about all the new things I get to see and do along the way!

Can Women be World Travelers?

Possible? Yes.

Safe? Yes. 

Whether you’re a first time female solo traveler, or you’re just looking for some motivation and confidence to go exploring the world, I’m here to tell you that you can survive, make unforgettable memories, and have the time of your life! Most importantly survive of course, which is why I’ve compiled a list of some extremely important tips to keep in mind throughout your journey.

  1. Know where you’re going- I know what you’re thinking..well duh! I wouldn’t travel somewhere without first researching about it. Although, many people often forget to research some key details including weather, local customs, places you should avoid, and where the best eateries are. It’s also important to know the type of clothing that is appropriate in that country. When I went to Korea, I quickly noticed that it is unacceptable for women to show any cleavage. In other countries, short-shorts may be strictly frowned upon, or head coverings might need to be worn when out in public. Will it be hot? cold? What type of swimsuits are considered appropriate? These are important details that can’t be left out.
  2. Stay alert and know where you are- I know, I know… you’re in another country! There are beautiful flowers blooming, cathedrals calling out your name, and the smell of croissants in the air, but this look of awe is sure to classify you as a tourist. Standing out as a foreigner too much can ultimately attract the wrong kind of company and tourist scamming. Try your best to dress like a local, and know where you are and where you’re headed, without keeping your head in the clouds, Make sure to keep all your important documents such as your passport, hotel address, wallet, and travel insurance papers on hand at all times in case of emergency. It is also recommended that you keep these irreplaceable items in an inconspicuous place, like a travel scarf. Your shoe or inside your bra are also good hiding spots to keep extra cash just in case! It’s naive to keep all your cash, your passport, ID, and information in one bag, because pickpocketing and stealing can happen to anyone. There is no reason for you to put a sign on your forehead saying, “lone traveler”, just fake it till you make it. Act confident and look like you know what you’re doing, no one will no the difference whether you’re with someone or not. In any uncomfortable situation with someone you could say, “ohh! I’m just waiting for my boyfriend, he’s in the bathroom. It was so nice to meet you!” (I’ve actually used this to get out of what could’ve been a weird situation. I would also recommend carrying a cross-body purse with a zipper closure with you when you go out on excursions. This leaves your hands free to take pictures, and keeps your belongings close to you. Avoid standing in the middle of streets to look at your phone, instead, hop into a coffee shop and act like you’re just on insta (google maps saves the day). Most coffee shops also have free wifi, so you can see which way you need to go.blonde tbt
  3.  Keep family updated on your schedule- It’s important to have someone back home knowing where you are and what you’re going to be doing during your trip. You should also leave an extra copy of your flight information, addresses of hotels, travel insurance, and passport copy with them in case of emergency. It’s good to reassure them that you’re having fun and enjoying your trip. Keep them up to date regularly, and let them know once you’ve arrived safely when traveling to new places.italy train tracks
  4. Learn some local language phrases- The locals like it when you at least make an effort to try and learn their language. We get upset when people come to America and can’t even speak English, so at least learn a few key phrases. It’s good to know things like directions, please and thank you, bathroom, hello and goodbye, and how to ask for help. Tourists often get ripped off when it’s obvious that they don’t know the native language of that country. The more you know, the less of a chance you have of getting ripped off.
  5. Don’t take more than what you need- I ALWAYS overpack…like did I really think it was necessary to bring my backup pair of heavy winter boots?? Most often, you’re going to be shopping a lot while you travel, so it’s smart to travel light and leave extra room to bring home all those goodies. Also, if you can’t carry(or wheel) everything on your own, you’re probably packing one too many suitcases. You don’t want to be that girl whose lugging a suitcase bigger than her, up a cobblestone street trying to find her hostel. It’s also difficult to enjoy the adventure and scenery if you’ve got multiple bags to keep your eyes on. Most times, half of what you pack doesn’t even make it out from the bottom of your suitcase. Some steps to avoid overpacking are… Make a checklist of everything you’ll need, pack tops and bottoms that can mix and match, and TRY not to pack more than 3 pair of shoes.
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  6.  Learn to say no- Saying no is not always rude, and can be the smart thing to do in some situations. You can’t feel guilty about turning down an invitation that you had a bad gut feeling about. It is exciting to be adventurous and spontaneous at times, but if you’re just not feeling it, it’s ok to say no. Always trust your instincts. Don’t do anything stupid.
  7. Have a budget- Be realistic about how much money you will need for your daily outings including food, accommodation, activities, transportation, and shopping. Make sure you set an obtainable goal, instead of leaving yourself with $5 a day to live off of, in this case, it’s probably best to save up and go on a trip at a later date. Splurging for safety is very important. Pay for everything that you can before you leave. Buy your flights, train tickets, travel insurance, hotel/hostel rooms, and any planned activities. Let your bank know you’ll be traveling out of the country a few days before you depart, so they don’t decline your card while overseas. Also, know the currency, exchange rates, and ATM fees of the country you’re going to. Before I left to Korea, I created a daily budget for myself to keep me on track with my finances. It’s also good to save some extra money as a buffer to cover any overages or unforeseen circumstances (shopping splurge). I would say to bring about 25% of your budget extra, just in case. I’d rather have too much extra, then be stranded with not enough money to get a cab back to my hotel!
  8. There will be homesickness- You might get lonely, and days when you might ask yourself, “what the heck am I doing in …?” When I’m homesick, I have Skype talks with my family back home and it really feels like I’m there with them. Go out and explore!! You’re in another country, so stop sitting up in your hotel room all alone and feeling sorry for yourself. Having a journal is also a good idea, as it can help to get it all out on paper. Years later…you’re gonna wish you had done and seen more instead of sitting all alone and feeling homesick. Writing is also very therapeutic and helps calm you down when you get all your feelings out on paper.traveling
  9. Take time to explore and relax- Not every single detail of your trip needs to be planned down to the minutes. Some days are good for just being adventurous and exploring! It’s good to keep a “tentative” schedule, and have friends and family know in what general area you are, but it’s also good to have changes in your plans.IMG_7470
  10. Smile- Remember, not everyone you see on the street is a pickpocket who wants to take advantage of you. Smiling can go a long way, and they might end up speaking English, which could lead to a nice conversation! Most locals are always looking to help out foreigners and help them not feel so estranged. If they don’t know English, it’s also friendly just to wave and smile, they’ll probably smile back!!

Enjoy your trip as a Solo Traveler!!

You’re about to go on an unforgettable adventure, that is worth more than you could ever buy with money. Take that leap to travel somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, you’ll never regret it. Be safe, trust your gut, be assertive and confident, and keep your valuable close at all times, but don’t forget to have fun! 



A Day well Spent in Jeonju

My trip to Jeonju 

It all began when my suite mate signed us up for the free foreigner only shuttle bus to Joenju through a company called Dongbo Travel. You must register for the shuttle bus at least 10 days in advance. You also have to bring your passport, since it is a “foreigner only” shuttle. I think just by looking at me they’d already know I’m a foreigner.  The exclusive “foreign only” shuttle bus can accommodate up to 40 passengers. The bus departs from Donghwa Duty Free shop in Seoul at 8 am and arrives in Jeonju at 11 am. However, my story of how we got to Jeonju is a little bit different, though we still arrived around the same time. We woke up bright and early to take the subway to Donghwa Duty Free Shop in Gwanghwamun. Little did we know, it takes a lot longer to get there than we thought it would. On top of that, Korean buses and transportation are on the dot with their arrival/departure time schedules. This left us standing in front of the Duty Free Shop around 8:10, with no bus in sight. I was determined to go to Jeonju just as planned so we brainstormed a bit… then decided to head to the nearest train station! We went to the high speed train station(KTX) in Yongsan and bought the next ticket to Jeonju. The next train would be leaving in about 30 minutes, so we got there just in time. All of the seating tickets had been sold out, so we purchased a standing ticket for about W32,000($29 USD), pretty good price! There is also a cheaper ticket if you don’t mind going the slower route through the Mugnghwa train, traveling at a normal speed and taking about 3 hours. Thank goodness we chose the KTX high speed train! The train runs at a speed of  300 kph, equivalent to about 168 mph! We only had to stand for about an hour and a half. From the Jeonju train station, we took a bus to Jeonju Hanok Village!


We were standing outside the window just wishing we had a seating ticket. They all look so comfortable 🙁


Jeonju is an ancient city with a thousand year history and is famous for many scrumptious dishes, mainly Bibimbap. The city is also known as, “The Best Taste City in Korea” and is worth a visit even if you’re only going to eat bipimbap. One of the main highlights of this city is the Jeonju hanok village. There are over 800 traditional houses in the Jeonju Hanok Village, many of which even offer rooms for staying in overnight. Prices may be a little more expensive than staying in a hotel, but I’d say the experience is totally worth it! Visitors are also allowed to rent a hanbok(Korean traditional clothing) for about 5,000 KRW for 3 hours. You will see people wandering around like royalty and posing for pictures in their hanbok all throughout Jeonju hanok village. To rent a hanbok, you just go into one of the shops and chose from their selection of available hanboks(it may be better to go earlier in the day). The ladies who run the hanbok shop will help you with braiding your hair and adding decorative flowers or headbands. I think it would be really exciting to wear a hanbok because its super inexpensive, and provides for great photo opportunities. We actually found a couple of people who had rented hanboks and followed them around to get some insight on the best picture spots. Another thing Jeonju is famous for are their paper products, and we saw numerous beautiful paper lanterns, lamps, and fans. When we first arrived in Jeonju, we were very hungry and decided to find a place to have the best bibimbap in all of Korea, or at least thats what we had been told. “Bibim” means mixed, and “bap” means rice. Bibimbap is a delicious dish made up of rice, vegetables, meat, a fried egg and mixed all together with gochujang sauce. Gochujang is a spicy, thick red chili paste. It always comes in sizes ranging from large to huge, which is good because this will quickly turn into one of your favorite meals!

When we first arrived in Jeonju!
When we first arrived in Jeonju!



They were right about the bibimbap! It was definitely the best one I’ve ever eaten! I feel like with every bite you get deeper and deeper into the flavorful bipimbap as it becomes yummier with the favors mixing together. After eating, we strolled through the hanok village, while the scorching heat almost burned us to death. Seriously it was blazing hot, and my umbrella didn’t really provide us with much shade. We learned after going back home that there was a heat warning that day. We found some really cute shops selling some of Jeonju’s specialty items, street food, and paper creations. Jeonju is choco pie heaven with countless choco pie vendors shops lining the streets all throughout the hanok village. The choco pie is a marshmallow filled sandwich between two pieces of cake, and dipped in chocolate. At least half of Jeonju visitors will be seen carrying big bright bags filled with choco pies to bring back home. The most famous choco pie in Jeonju is from a bakery called PNB. Just from looking at dishes from the ladies packing up choco pies, and the amount of people walking around with PNB bags, I’d expect these choco pies to be completely out of this world. Although the PNB bakery also sells other baked goods, Im sure no one goes there just to buy croissants… they’re all there for the choco pies! They even have prepackaged boxes sitting behind the register ready to be purchased. Are they really as amazing are everyone says they are? My friend bought a box of choco pies from B.J. Bakery to bring back home and let me have one to try. Although I didn’t try the “World Famous PNB chocopie”, I’d say it doesn’t really live up to its potential. It was pretty good, just don’t expect it to be life changing.


 Another must-try food in Jeonju is the kalbi meatball skewer. They are marinated, huge, and juicy! Served on a skewer with sour cream on top! It costed 3,500 KRW(about $3 USD). The meatballs were definitely one of my favorite things I ate while in Jeonju. Some other popular street foods in Jeonju are the macaroon ice-cream, grilled cheese skewer, shrimp dumplings, king-sized BBQ chicken skewer, gilgoria baguette, octopus skewer, and handmade ice-cream. Grilled cheese skewer?? At this point, I’m pretty sure any food can just be stuck on a skewer and considered “street food”.

Waiting in line to get my yummy meatballs.
Waiting in line to get my yummy meatballs.




 Our “foreigner only” shuttle bus was scheduled to depart from the Jeonju National Intangible Heritage Center from 5:00, and we made sure to be there by 4:30 so we wouldn’t miss the bus again! They were a bit confused as to who we were and how we got there, considering we didn’t check in earlier that morning. We got everything straightened out and since we had our tickets showing me registered for the bus, they let us ride back with them. The bus ride was a lot longer than KTX and it felt like it took forever just to get back to Seoul, until we finally we arrived around 8:30 p.m. My trip to Jeonju was a great experience and I’d recommend it for anyone in Seoul, who just wants to get away from all the crazy city life for a few days, or even a few hours!